All posts by AM

Veterinarian position available – ACCOMMODATION INCLUDED!

Sitting in peak hour traffic trying to get to work on time? Eh, no thanks!
Daily sleep ins followed by a 20 second stroll to work? Yes please..

Paying $700+ per week for a shoe box in Sydney CBD? No thank you..
Accommodation provided in the picturesque, safe and welcoming heritage village of Hall? Hmm that’s very tempting..

A train, bus, ferry and cab to get to your favorite bar for dinner and drink? Its a no from me..
All the culture of Melbourne and Sydney combined but without the hassle? Okay, I’m sold.

Say hello to your new place!
Come and see what Canberra has to offer!

Why not take this incredible opportunity to see what all the Canberra fuss is about! Hall Veterinary Surgery and Vets at Amaroo are looking for a veterinarian to join our team.

Our modern and purpose built branch practice Vets at Amaroo

We are a Lincoln Institute Accredited Employer Of Choice – the highest level of leadership qualification currently available for Veterinary Professionals in Australia and New Zealand, and we want you!

About Us:

We are a small animal practice, operating out of two purpose-built clinics. With a mix of old heads and youthful vitality, each vet feels appreciated and worthwhile. We are supported by experienced qualified nurses and utilise a dedicated consult nurse. We work to everyone’s strengths and help each other to do our best every day.

We embrace autonomy, mastery and purpose so you will get lead the pet’s health journey and drive your own learning journey underpinned with an underlying deep seated caring orientated purpose. We are one big family without the Christmas arguments and through our love of learning, teamwork, respect and trust we deliver the best care to the pets and their people in a fun environment.

About you:

If you are a good listener, empathetic, love talking to people and helping clients give their pets the best possible life then this is the place for you. If you embrace challenges and love working in a team then we want you. If you are keen to grow in a supportive environment then we will help you become the best version of yourself. What are you waiting for?

What else:

  • Above award salary
  • Package negotiable, including a minimum of 4 weeks annual leave, study allowance and study leave. Pro rata for part time
  • Weekly rostered day off for full time
  • Provided continued education
  • ACT Vet Boars registration paid for
  • ACT Radiation license paid for

What’s next:

Whether you are an experienced vet or perhaps a new graduate just starting out, give us a call, we’d love to chat.
Telephone contact: Janet (Practice Manager) 6230 2223
Email contact: office@hallvet.com.au

Nail Trimming Tips & Tricks

The top tips & tricks from our team of experts on dog and cat pedicures!
  • Start young and make it positive!
    Get your new puppy used to examinations and nail trims by gently handling their paws, ears, mouth etc every day. Ensure you make nail trims fun by using rewards (such as food and praise) to keep it positive for your pup!
  • Enlist a helping hand
    Having a second person to distract, treat and praise your pup means that you can focus on nail trimming alone and will help to avoid any accidents.
  • Start slow and finish on a positive note
    Always stop whilst you’re ahead, if you can sense your pup may be starting to become restless then stop where you are, even if it means that you only do 2 or 3 nails at a time. Always make sure you finish the session on a positive note so that your puppy will have fond memories for the next time the nail trimmers come out.
  • Cut small
    Each nail has a blood supply called the ‘quick’. The quick can be visible in some white nails, however it is often invisible in darker colored nails. Clipping the nails too far back can result in cutting the quick, which is painful for your pup and results in a bleeding nail. We recommend only cutting 2mm or so off the end of each nail at a time, some dogs who haven’t had their nails trimmed in a long time can have quite a long quick so always cut small to begin with.
Dog Nail Anatomy
  • Accidents happen, have styptic powder ready
    Whilst you will try your best not to cut the quick sometimes accidents happen! In the case that one of the nails is bleeding, dabbing a cotton bud into styptic powder and applying this to the end of the nail will form a clot to stop the bleeding. It is a good idea to have styptic powder on hand and ready whenever you are trimming your dogs nails, cornflour will also do the trick as a substitute if you are stuck.
  • Don’t forget the dew claw
    Most dogs are born with dew claws on their front legs (and some even have them on their hind legs too!). These claws are located higher up on the inside of the leg leg, almost like a thumb nail. Often these nails need trimming the most as they don’t come into contact with the ground and therefore don’t get worn down by walking on concrete and other hard surfaces.
  • If in doubt, give us a shout!
    If you don’t feel comfortable or confident trimming your dogs nails, give us a call. Our nurses trim nails every single day and know all the tricks in the book 🙂 Their are also many helping hands here to feed treats and distract your pup to make it a better experience for them. Give us a call on 6230 2223 to make an appointment.

Grass Seeds alert!

Spring and Summer encompass fun outdoor times for many Australian families and their canine companions. Unfortunately with beautiful weather and rapid growth of vegetation comes grass seeds. These little suckers can cause lots of pain and suffering to our pets and their owners, they have a sharp tip enabling them to pierce the skin easily and can migrate through the body often bringing infection with them.

At Hall Vet Surgery the most common places we find grass seeds caught are in ear canals, in between toes, up nostrils, in eyelids, underneath skin in various parts of the body and lodged in the vulva/penis.

Below are a list of symptoms, possible complications and what to do/not to do depending on the location of the grass seed.

EARS

Symptoms:
A grass seed in the ear might make your dog shake their head, cry out in pain, hold their head to one side or scratch at their ear.
Potential Complications:
Grass seeds lodged in the ear canal can cause ear infection, rupture of the ear drum, loss of hearing or balance and even death if infection reaches the brain.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible.
What not to do:
DO NOT try to remove the grass seed yourself, the ear is likely to be very painful and sensitive and if your pets moves their head suddenly you could severely damage their ear drum. Do not put any ear cleanser down the ear, if there is a grass seed present you will push it closer to the ear drum making it more difficult and hazardous to remove.

PAWS

Symptoms:
A grass seed caught in your dog’s paw may cause a red, swollen and discharging lump on the paw, your dog may limp or lick/chew at their paw constantly.
Potential Complications:
Infection, migration of the grass seed into leg and possibly in between ligaments or tendons.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment. Keep area clean with warm salty water and where possible restrain your dog from licking – this can actually push the grass seed further into the skin and cause more damage. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required.
What not to do:
Do not try to remove the grass seed yourself.

NOSE

Symptoms:
Symptoms present when a grass seed has travelled into the nostril are often; sneezing, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and rubbing or pawing at face.
Potential Complications:
A grass seed in the nostril can cause serious damage to airways and if the seed migrates into the lung it can become a life threatening emergency.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible. Restrict exercise. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required.
What not to do:
Do not delay treatment.

EYES

Symptoms:
Having a grass seed caught in the eye can be extremely painful for your dog, symptoms often seen are; eyes that are swollen closed, discharge from eye, visible third eyelid and some pets may paw at their eye or rub their face on the ground/furniture.
Potential Complications:
Ulceration of the eyes surface, if damage is severe enough eye removal can be necessary.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment as soon as possible. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required.
What not to do:
Do not delay treatment.

SKIN

Symptoms:
You will often an oozing lump sometimes with a visible entry hole, you may also notice your dog constantly lick at a spot on their body.
Potential Complications:
Infection, migration of the seed through the body.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment. Keep area clean with warm salty water and where possible restrain your dog from licking – this can actually push the grass seed further into the skin and cause more damage. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required.
What not to do:
Do not try to remove the grass seed yourself even if the tail is visible.

VULVA / PENIS

Symptoms:
Difficulty urinating, blood in urine, licking at the site and redness or swelling.
Potential Complications:
Infection, damage to structures, invasive surgery to remove.
What to do:
Ring your vet to make an appointment. If possible, try to catch a fresh urine sample and bring it with you to your appointment. Avoid feeding your pet prior to your appointment in case surgical removal is required.
What not to do:
Do not delay treatment.

Removal

The animal’s body is not able to break down a grass seed so when a grass seed is embedded it generally requires surgical removal. In the case of surgical removal your pet will usually have a general anaesthetic whilst we extract the offending grass seeds. General Anaesthesia allows the procedure to be painless for your pet and allows your vet to thoroughly investigate the area – we usually find more than one grass seed in any given case so it is important that we are able to have a really good look. Delaying the initial vet visit may result in more invasive (and more expensive) surgeries to find and remove the seed.

Grass Seeds surgically removed from a Dog’s ear here at Hall Vet Surgery, pen for size comparison.

Prevention is the best cure

Here are some ways you can prevent the risk of grass seeds to your dog:

  • Avoiding long grass when out walking/exploring (this also helps to minimise the risk of Snake Bites)
  • Keeping the grass in your yard tidy and mowed
  • Clipping the fur of long haired dogs. If your dog is prone to grass seeds in the ears or between the toes then we recommend regular clipping of these areas to keep the hair short at all times
If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms please give us a call on (02) 62302223.

Leptospirosis Outbreak in Sydney Suburbs

The infection is often contracted when the dog is exposed to infected rodent urine in ponds or wet soil in poorly drained areas.

Sadly, there have been multiple fatalities in dogs due to a reported Leptospirosis outbreak in Sydney recently. Here are some facts you need to know.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (often referred to as Lepto for short) is a bacterial infection that travels throughout the entire body via the blood stream, causing organ dysfunction/failure and internal bleeding. It can be fatal in as little as 48 hours.

What do I need to know?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic infection which means it can affect humans too. 
There have been seven confirmed fatal cases in dogs so far, all of which have been reported in the Inner West suburbs of Sydney (Glebe, Surry Hills etc.)

How is it spread?

The bacteria favours warm, moist environments, ponds and stagnant water and areas exposed to flooding. The infection is often contracted when the dog is exposed to infected rodent urine in ponds or wet soil in poorly drained areas.

What can I do to minimize the risk to my dog?

We recommend avoiding taking your pets to these parts of Sydney where possible, however if your dog must travel there with you, there are vaccines available to cover them for Leptospirosis. Initially your dog will require two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart and then annual re-vaccination to maintain immunity. It is not safe to travel until the vaccination is in full effect – about 10 days after the second vaccination. Avoid any stagnant water or places where there has been flooding, keep your dog on lead when walking and DO NOT allow to swim in or drink dirty water.
Again, it is advisable to arrange alternative options where possible.

If you have upcoming travel plans to Sydney with your pets please phone us on 6203 2223 for more information.

Parvovirus in Canberra and surrounds

Recently there have been multiple cases of canine Parvovirus reported by veterinarians in Canberra and it’s surrounds. Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus that causes extreme vomiting and diarrhoea leading to dehydration, lethargy, septicemia and even death in severe cases.


This virus can be spread directly through contact with an infected dog or through faeces or indirectly through items like water bowls, collars and leashes or the hands or clothing of people that have touched an infected dog. Parvovirus can also remain active in infected soil for years, i.e. at ovals or dog parks where an infected dog has been.
Dogs less than 1 year of age are most at risk however older un-vaccinated dogs can also contract the disease.
Most dogs will recover with aggressive supportive treatment if started early. The main focus of treatment is intravenous fluids to replace lost fluids and re-balance electrolytes, pain relief to ensure the patient remains comfortable and medication to control vomiting and nausea. Patients may require treatment in hospital for many days before recovering.


The good news is that Parvo is a preventable virus and is covered in your dog’s normal C3/C5 vaccination. We recommend that puppies have 3 vaccinations at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. They also require a booster vaccination at around 15 months of age and then a booster every 3 years for life.
We’d like to take this opportunity to remind new puppy owners that your dog is not covered until 10 days after their second C3 vaccination and you should avoid taking your dog to public places like foot paths, dog parks and ovals until they have received all 3 vaccinations. If you are unsure of your puppy or adult dog’s vaccination status please give us a call on 6230 2223. If you notice decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea or lethargy in your pet please call your vet ASAP.

Patient Spotlight – Crookshanks the Cat

Warning: this blog post contains graphic surgical images 

Crookshanks is a lovely cat that came in to see us as she had been losing weight and her owners had noticed blood in her urine.  After running blood and urine tests we then performed an abdominal ultrasound. 

The ultrasound highlighted that Crookshanks had a stone in her ureter – the ureter is the tube through which urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder.  The diagram below shows the kidneys, ureters and bladder.

diagram source: Merck Vet Manual

When the ureter becomes blocked the kidney fills with urine and cannot empty.  This was also the cause of the blood Crookshanks’ owner noticed in her urine. 

On ultrasound a normal kidney is bean shaped, it has a light grey outer shell, and a darker middle area.  In the images below the kidney outline is circled in red. 

Here is an example of a normal ultrasound, the kidney is circled in red. Source: JSFM ultrasound of the feline kidney .

Below are ultrasound images of Crookshanks’ kidney.  Again, the outline of the kidney is highlighted in red.  The centre of the kidney is black, this is the urine that is building up because her ureter is blocked.  Her ureter is widened and full of urine.  The ureter is outlined in blue in this image.

Ultrasound image of Crookshanks’ Kidney and Ureter. Kidney is outlined in red and full of urine, the ureter is outlined in blue and is dilated, indicating blockage of flow through to the bladder.
The same image without outlines.

We followed the widened ureter down towards the bladder wih the ultrasound probe.  This is when we found the stones that were causing the blockage.  The ureter is outlined in blue, and there is a green arrow pointing towards the stones.

Crookshanks’ ureter is outlined in blue, the green arrow is pointing to the stone that was causing the blockage.

Crookshanks’ went into surgery with Dr Vickie Saye to have the stone removed.  The ureter is very tiny, only a few millimeters thick, so it was a very intricate and delicate surgery.  You can see in the photo below, the ureter is so small that you can only fit a very fine piece of suture material through it.  The photo was taken during Crookshanks’ surgery and the suture material was passed through the ureter to ensure that all stones had been removed and the ureter was blockage free.

The fine blue string like material is the suture material used to pass through the ureter and ensure there were no more stones blocking urine from travelling through to the bladder.

Two stones were removed from Crookshanks’ ureters.  They were very small only 1-2mm in size, amazing that something so small can cause such big problems.


Here are the two stones surgically removed from Crookshanks’ ureter. There were TINY, about 1mm in size.

Crookshanks required intensive care and monitoring after her surgery.  She was in hospital for several days. 

Crookshanks resting in hospital on intravenous fluids and pain relief in a nice cozy bed.

She is now much brighter and happier than she was before the surgery, as she is not in pain anymore.  She is even starting to put on weight.  She enjoys being able to join her sister McGonagall for walks on lead around the suburb. She will be on a special prescription diet for the rest of her life to help prevent the stones from reoccurring. 

Exercising the body and the brain, Crookshanks loves being well enough to join her sister for walks!

Casper, the kitty who didn’t learn his lesson..

Casper the confident kitty

Casper is a sweet, outgoing and confident 9 month old cat who loves to explore and play. Ever since he was a tiny kitten his family always thought he was more like a dog then a cat, his human brother and sister have even taught him to sit and wait for his meals just like a dog. Casper’s family live on a farm and he loves exploring through the paddocks.

Casper’s first non-routine visit with us was in November of 2018, after he refused to eat both breakfast and dinner (which was unusual for typically ravenous Casper) and then vomited too. On physical examination Dr Lesa found that he was painful when she palpated his abdomen, which hinted at the possibility of a foreign object in his tummy.

Casper was admitted to hospital to have an x-ray of his abdomen for further investigation.

Circled in red is a plug shaped radio-opaque foreign body

Another view of the plug shaped foreign body

As you can see above, Capser’s x-rays revealed a plug shaped foreign body in his abdomen. The safest thing to do for Casper was to perform an urgent exploratory laparotomy (ex-lap) to remove the foreign body. Dr Jenny performed his surgery the same day and removed a small green rubber plug-like object. Casper recovered well and returned home to his family the following day. The only mystery remaining, what on earth was the plug-like object that Capser ingested and where did he find it? His family searched and searched but couldn’t figure out where the object came from, they disposed of the object and life returned to normal.

Fast forward 2 months to the 30th of January. Casper began showing the same symptoms at home as he did back in November, vomiting and some loss of appetite. His owners, who are now well versed in the possible causes of vomiting and armed with the knowledge that he is known to eat things he shouldn’t, brought Casper back in for another check up.

Due to his history, Dr Gillian recommended that we repeat his abdominal x-rays.

Casper’s second lot of x-rays were almost an exact replica of his first, showing another plug-shaped object in his abdomen

You wouldn’t believe it but Casper’s new x-ray was almost an exact replica of the x-rays taken back in November.
Here are the two images side by side:

The whole Hall Vet Surgery team was shocked to see that it seemed that Casper had ingested something of the exact same shape, size and material as the first time.

Casper then underwent his second urgent surgery to remove a foreign body from his abdomen. Another successful surgery later and his owners were on a mission to find out where the mysterious objects were coming from.

Caspers whole family were out scouring the paddock from top to bottom to find any trace of the rubber plugs when they came across these..

They were toy bullets from Capser’s human brother’s Nerf Gun. It seems that Casper had been finding the bullets, chewing on the styrofoam section and accidentally ingesting the rubber plug from the end of the bullets.

We are thankful that Casper’s family has found the source of the foreign bodies and we now urge anyone with children and pets to be cautious of Nerf Bullets and the risks they pose to your animals if ingested. It is safe to say that Nerf Guns have been banned in Casper’s household!

Casper is back to his normal happy self thanks to his quick acting owners

If your pet loses their appetite, vomits or becomes lethargic it is always worth coming in for a check up. Casper’s quick acting owners may have just saved his life, twice!

Tips to keep dogs safe at Christmas

Safety tips for Christmas time!

As we head into the festive season and look forward to relaxing with family and friends, it’s a good time to give some thought to keeping our pets safe as they join us in the fun festivities!

 

Here are some potential dangers to watch out for:

 

Some human foods are just not meant for dogs:
Chocolate, plum pudding, Christmas cake, fruit platters and delicious roasts and stuffing. What could possibly be wrong with sharing that!

Unfortunately, these Christmas goodies can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, including chocolate, sultanas, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and macadamia nuts.

Signs will depend on the food that has been eaten and can be delayed. For example kidney damage from grapes and raisins may not become apparent until weeks down the track. If your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have, please speak to a veterinarian immediately.

 

Alcohol
This is a no-brainer really but there is NO safe amount of alcohol for your dog to have. Effects will range from depression, difficulty walking, slow breathing, collapse and even possibly loss of life.

 

Overindulgence
Just a little bit of ham can’t hurt, right? Well, a little here and a little there adds up! We love to treat our pets but we need to remember that a little to us can be a lot to them, and eating too much of something different or high in fat is a very common cause of illness for them.

Overindulgence can trigger stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and even pancreatitis (which can be fatal). Feeding cooked bones should always be avoided as these can cause bowel obstructions and constipation requiring intervention.

Don’t risk your dog getting treats from the BBQ or scavenging from finished plates. If you can’t ensure your guests will resist your dog’s pleading eyes, then you are better off to have your dog safely out of their way!

You need to take control here on behalf of your pooch, because they are not going say no!

 

Noise Anxiety
Parties, fireworks and summer storms make Christmas time hard for dogs who are prone to anxiety.
Nobody knows your pet better than you do. Always observe your mate closely and look for the subtle signs that they are worried, and take action.

Avoid the stressors where possible, and make sure they always have access to a quiet, safe retreat. Some pets will benefit from judicious medication to get through this time unscathed. Please call us if you would like to discuss.

The Christmas Tree!
Now, we’re not saying don’t have one! We like the festive fun as much as anyone, but here are a few things to consider if you do.

  • Tummy upsets after chewing pine needles or drinking stagnant Christmas tree water.
  • Electrocution is a risk if your pooch starts chewing the Christmas tree lights.
  • Obstruction or injury to the bowel can occur if tinsel, other decorations, wrappings or ribbons are eaten.

So to make things easy, here’s a checklist on how to make your Christmas tree dog-friendly this year.

  1. Cover or box around the tree stand.
  2. Plastic cover the electric cord for the lights.
  3. Plastic or non-breakable decorations (no glass)
  4. Decorations secured in place.
  5. Tinsel up high out of reach (or none at all)
  6. Secure the tree so that it can’t easily fall.

 

Holiday Plants
Popular Christmas plants and flowers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, lilies, hibiscus, Christmas cactus, berries, mistletoe and holly leaves are all poisonous to your pets. Make sure they are out of their reach, as consumption could result in illness or even death.

 

Batteries & Toys
Swallowed batteries are very dangerous for dogs, causing a range of issues from burning their gut to a life-threatening obstruction or stomach rupture! Batteries are a common addition to Christmas gifts so please ensure they are kept well out of reach of your pooch.

Many toys contain small plastic, rubber or metal parts that, if eaten by a dog, can cause choking or dangerous gastrointestinal blockage requiring immediate surgery.

With a little careful planning, you can ensure your Christmas celebrations will be free of unnecessary trips to the vet. However, if you have concerns after hours during the festive season, please call:

Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services on: 62257257
Or
Animal Emergency Centre Canberra on: 62806344

We wish you and your furry family happy and safe holidays!

 

Reference to an article by Dr Claire Jenkins  Co-founder of Vetchat.

From Tabby to Tiger – the Wild Side of our Domestic Cats

Taking a look at the wild side of your kitty cat

That relaxed moggy purring on our lap is closer to its wild ancestors than you might think. Pet cats may be domestic animals, but they are much less domesticated than our pet dogs.  The following evolutionary quirks show that there is much in common between our domestic cats and their wild cousins.

Cats need to eat meat. All felids from tabby to tiger require high levels of animal protein in their diet. This provides certain amino acids like taurine that other mammals (including ourselves) do not need in their diet. Essential hormones for breeding and vitamins like thiamine are more easily extracted from meat than plants.

Cats have lost their ability to taste sugars as they don’t need to detect ripening fruit, however their taste buds are much more discerning when it comes to distinguishing different flavours of meat, making some family felines frustratingly fussy at times.

Genetically, domestic cats are very similar to wildcats. They only emerged as a separate subspecies around 10,000 years ago. Studies are underway to pinpoint the differences in DNA sequencing that makes it possible for domestic cats to socialise with us, something that wildcats are unable to do.

Most wild cats lead solitary lives in order to effectively hunt small prey. The main exception being lions who live together in prides and hunt prey large enough to feed many members of their social group.

Whilst male domestic cats living in the wild are solitary, related females will often live in social groups when food is abundant and share the raising of their kittens. Pet cats show affection for us in the same way that related cats show social behaviour to each other, raising their tails upright and attempting to groom us. It is less common for unrelated pet cats that have not grown up together to develop these strong social bonds. They are more likely to live their separate lives within the home and require separate access to key resources like food, water, litter, scratching poles and resting places to fulfil their needs.

Most smaller felids, including domestic cats are nocturnal in the wild. Those beautiful big eyes allow them to gather enough light to see at night. A domestic cat’s eyes are almost as big as ours. Their retina is about six times more sensitive than ours and their brain is wired to pick up small movements. All felids have a reflective layer behind their retina to increase night vision. This produces their distinctive green reflection in a torch beam at night.

For cats, play is hunting behaviour. Whether they are pouncing and grasping small toys in the teeth, or holding a larger toy with all four sets of claws, this resembles the way they catch a meal in the wild. Domestic cats were originally kept to control pests like rats and mice. Inside their heads they are still hunters and will rip up small toys more intensely on an empty stomach in pursuit of a meal.

As stalking hunters, cats are designed to lay motionless in wait for prey and then leap into action at the crucial moment. This ‘kindle’ reflex can be seen in pet cats, when, in what seems like a nanosecond they can be triggered into an aroused state which can take many hours to abate.

As solitary hunters, domestic cats tend to hunt in separate territories and rarely see or hear each other. To avoid confrontation that could cause life threatening wounds, they communicate by smell. Just like lions and tigers, domestic felids deposit urine around their territories and rub their cheeks on prominent landmarks to leave a scent from skin glands. All cats possess a second ‘nose’, the vomeronasal organ, situated between the palate and nose for processing the messages left by other cats.  Lions and tigers curl their top lip in a ‘Flehmen’ response when using this sense. Domestic cats will seem to go into a brief trance as they use subtle muscles around this organ to draw the chemical message or pheromone into the gland and gain information about the identity of its owner.

Our feline friends bring so much joy into our lives. It is helpful to have some understanding of their close ties to ancestral behaviours and how that affects the way they see the world. This reminds us to keep them away from native wildlife, helps us to accommodate their needs in a domestic household and to interact with them in a way that builds a mutual bond.

Reference: John Bradshaw, BBC Science Focus online magazine 18 Jan 2018

Cuddling Kitty – On Their Terms

Have you ever been grabbed for a well meant cuddle when you just weren’t in the mood? Imagine how your cat feels.

 

Being picked up and hugged can be a stressful for cats. Cats are skilled predators, but they’re also prey animals and being restrained can feel threatening. Next time you’re hankering to cuddle your cat, think about how they might feel about it. Cats are naturally cautious, and they like to keep all four paws on a solid surface, in case they need to leap away.

Understanding this is key to living happily with a cat. In fact, the more you let your cat decide when, where, and how affection will happen, the more they’ll trust you and enjoy the interaction. Cats are more likely to approach us for affection, and to hang around longer, when we let them make the first move.

“Ask” First

Like us, cats prefer that we ask if it’s okay before we touch. Felines who are friends greet each other by touching noses. A human head is too big and potentially intimidating to offer. Try gently offering a fingertip at their nose level, a few inches away, as a way to ask politely, “May I pet you?”

Some cats will say no by walking away. Some may approach but then sit down with a bit of space between you. This is their way of saying, “I’m fine over here, but no touching yet.” No matter how adorable the cat, we need to respect those limits. Many cats will walk up and sniff your finger, and may even rub into it. That’s the invitation for petting.

Watch And Learn

Where you pet a cat matters a great deal to them. If you were visiting a country with a totally unfamiliar culture, you’d watch where and how the people touch each other to figure out what is and is not considered polite. When watching a friendly feline greeting, we find that they lick and touch each other around the cheeks, forehead, back of the neck, and shoulders. They always follow the grain of the fur in friendly interactions. There’s no rubbing the fur up the wrong way.

A couple of studies have found that cats showed more positive responses to their humans,  such as purring, blinking, and kneading their paws, when they were petted on the forehead area and the cheeks. Respect and follow this feline etiquette.

What about that spot at the base of the tail, the one that causes some cats to lift their butt in the air? The petting studies suggest that’s actually not a favourite spot for many cats. Cats who do like it show you very clearly by lifting their behind. If your cat is not raising his butt for more, he’s one of the many who don’t care for that sort of thing.

Even when a cat says okay to touch, we’ve all had that experience where we’re petting a cat and it’s bliss, bliss, bliss—and then suddenly swat! It seems like it all changed in a nanosecond. Cats do have issues when it comes to being touched, and they get overloaded pretty quickly. But not as quickly as we might think. That swat is usually preceded by more subtle signals that we have missed.

How a cat communicates that they have had enough varies for each individual. Signs of over stimulation include the following:

  • Skin over the shoulders stiffens or ripples
  • Whiskers come forward
  • Ears flick back, sideways, or flat
  • Tail flicks or lashes
  • Skin twitches
  • Pupils dilate
  • Claws come out
  • A paw is raised
  • Vocalization (other than purring)

If you see any one of those signs, stop petting. If your cat chooses to remain beside you (because you have been so polite), wait a few minutes before you start petting again or better still, just keep your hands to yourself until they seek affection in their own time.

Of course, every cat is an individual with his own preferences. The best way to pet your cat is just the way they like it. Pay close attention to your cat’s body language, observe the feline rules of politeness, and you’ll both be enjoying more cuddle time.